By Jeffery Armstrong
Terry Richardson II had to make a critical sports decision at an early age: either concentrate on baseball or focus on tennis.
Richardson II chose tennis and he hasn't looked back since, culminating with the Stockbridge High senior signing a letter of intent Friday afternoon to play tennis at Xavier University in New Orleans in front of family, friends, coaches and school administrators.
"I want to first say without God none of this would be possible and that I appreciate all that my family and my friends have done for me," Richardson II said to the audience. "I especially appreciate my parents coming up with the funds for my tennis matches through the years."
Richardson's father, Terry Richardson I., said he was very proud of his son and sees the money he and his wife Anita put into his tennis matches as money well spent.
"When you look back on it, today marks the return on the investment," said the elder Richardson, Director of Admissions at DeKalb Technical College. "I have always wanted Terry to make a quality decision when it came to attending college and I believe he's done that."
Richardson II has been used to making quality decisions, athletically and academically. He's been one of the better players on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) circuit over the years. Richardson II said that he's ranked ninth in USTA-South and 90th in the nation in his age bracket.
"When I was a freshman and sophomore, I only lost one high school match in two years," he said.
Richardson II is also focused in the classroom, taking Honors classes and sporting a 4.3 grade point average.
Richardson's mother Anita said Terry has been focused on everything since the eighth grade, when his parents asked him to define his goals in life and sports.
"Terry set goals to be a great tennis player and get into a great college. He put in the work and the time and now he's off to New Orleans to attend Xavier," Anita said. "I'm very proud, very excited and very relieved. I might have to come visit him around Mardi Gras time to make sure he stays focused, however."
It's a safe bet that Richardson II will remain focused at Xavier. He plans to major in Biology/Pre-Med and wants to be a Physical Therapist at this point. Richardson II, whose favorite tennis player is Andre Agassi, was attracted to Xavier because of its reputation with African-Americans in medicine and the rapport he had with the head coach and players.
"Xavier has sent more blacks to medical school than any school in the country for years now," said Richardson II. "I also got along well with the coaching staff and my future teammates. It feels really good to go to Xavier, especially on a full scholarship which will take the financial burden off my parents."
Xavier head men's tennis coach Alan Green attended the signing and said he was proud to have Richardson II on his team. He heard of Terry from his friend, tennis coach Norman Wilkerson, a man who has coached Terry since he was six years old.
"When I saw him play and saw what a good student he was, I knew we had to have him at Xavier. He has a great baseline game, a great forehand and court quickness," Green said. "His head and legs will win him a lot of matches. He could be the strongest doubles player on the team as an incoming freshman."
Richardson's sister Tiffany and his brother Sean were also happy for him on Friday.
"I'm excited for him. He's always been mature and smart n he's helped me with my homework," said 20-year-old Tiffany, a former tennis player at Stockbridge and a DeKalb Tech student.
"I'm excited, but I'll also miss him," said middle-schooler Sean, 14, also a tennis player. "Terry has always motivated me to play better."
Dorothy Curtis, known to the family as "Grammy," has taken care of the young Richardsons ever since they were babies and said something about young Terry that should help him in college.
"He's a great tennis player and a very cool and together young man," said Curtis, 83. "He doesn't get excited about too much."